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Date: 2024-05-21 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00024391

An LAUSD Bus Driver Speaks Out ... ‘We’re Doing Jobs it Should Take Three People to Do. ’LAUSD bus driver says their three-day strike is about both pay and working conditions.

Original article:
Peter Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
An LAUSD Bus Driver Speaks Out ‘We’re Doing Jobs it Should Take Three People to Do. ’LAUSD bus driver says their three-day strike is about both pay and working conditions. JACK ROSS ... Jack Ross is a writer based in Los Angeles. APR 1, 2023 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) employees began a three-day strike on March 21, closing schools in the country’s second largest district, which serves approximately 420,000 students. The roughly 30,000 workers represented by Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) include bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and special education assistants. They are demanding a 30% wage increase in addition to an increase of $2 an hour for the lowest earners and are joined in a solidarity strike by 35,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which is also negotiating its contract. (Disclosure: SEIU is a financial supporter of Capital & Main.) kroger workers SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias told the Los Angeles Times the union aimed to increase members’ average salary from $25,000 to $36,000 a year. After the district received federal COVID-19 funds, it has accumulated nearly $3 billion in unrestricted reserve funds — monies that could be spent at the district’s discretion. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has said LAUSD needs the dollars as it faces financial “armageddon” with declining enrollment. At 4:30 a.m. on March 21, SEIU 99 workers picketed outside the district’s Van Nuys bus yard in the pouring rain. Bus drivers balanced union signs with steaming cups of McDonald’s coffee as temperatures climbed slowly out of the 40s. Strike captain Lynneier Boyd-Peterson, 47, spoke with Capital & Main about the walkout. This interview was conducted by Capital & Main. It is republished at the LA Progressive with their permission. The interview has been edited by Capital & Main for clarity and brevity. Lynneier Boyd-Peterson Capital & Main: What do you do for the Los Angeles Unified School District? Lynneier Boyd-Peterson: I’m a light full-time bus driver. My pay is $29.70, and I get 40 hours a week. Why is that not enough to live on right now? I’ve been at the district for a long time, and we have never had a cost-of-living raise. Things have gotten higher and our pay has stayed the same. It’s not really about the pay, though. It’s about respect, treatment and not being bullied by the district. We need more staffing all across the board. We’re really shorthanded. We’re doing double jobs, we’re doing triple jobs, jobs it should take three people to do. Our routes used to only be 90 minutes. Now our routes can actually go up to two hours because the district’s contractors can’t cover enough routes. We’ve absorbed different students to make sure the students get to their destination safely. If that means signing on earlier and covering multiple routes, that’s what we do. Meanwhile, some of our drivers work only four hours or six hours. They’re not full-time drivers. They’re stuck with part-time work while we’re working triple. Those drivers need to be made full time and made eight hour employees so that way we can have a more reasonable workload. SEIU is asking for a 30% raise plus $2 an hour for the lowest paid workers. If the district met those demands, what would that mean for you? It would keep me on track with the bills. I would be able to save more money so when we’re off in the summertime I can use that money to pay the mortgage. I have three kids. My daughter is about to go to college, to Texas Southern [University]. Of course, I have to pay for that too. That’s a big step for me. Have you been able to pay your bills? No. My mortgage is always late. We’re just 10-month employees, so it’s hard in the summertime. We don’t have enough work to go around in the summer months. If they have the work, the district gives it to us, but we only work the hours that they can give us. If we only come in for four hours, that’s all we get. [To get by] we work at clothing stores, like DD’s clothing store — DD’s is now starting their people off at $20 an hour — so we might go there [for work], or we might go to the YMCA, or we might go to the grocery store, or take other driving jobs as well. I actually do hair over the summer. I’m a barber. I definitely have to go and do as much hair as I can in the summer. LAUSD has a budget surplus. Superintendent Carvalho had cited a looming recession in budget talks to justify not spending as much of that surplus as the unions wanted. Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t. He’s our superintendent and he makes $440,000 a year. He makes more than the president [of the United States]. How is that fair? And then he got over a 20% raise. [Carvalho signed a contract in 2022 for a $440,000 salary, representing an increase of nearly 26% over the salary of his predecessor, Austin Beutner, who was paid $350,000 annually.] So you’re telling us you don’t have the money, but you gave yourself a raise? Come on, now. I don’t think so. Do you see yourself as part of the students’ education even though you’re not a teacher? I definitely do. We have to realize that the bus is an extension of the school. When they come to and from school, guess what, I train them. When I get my students on the bus, the first thing I say is, “Good morning, how are you? How was your night?” When they get off the bus, I say, “Have a blessed day.” So I’m teaching them to be polite. The way we treat people is the way we want to be treated. Yes, [the bus] is a classroom. It starts with me. I’ve been here so long, so I have even driven some of my students’ parents to school. That’s how long I’ve been here. I remember once, one of my students got on, and because I know how my students are, because I’ve been doing it so long, you pay attention to their actions. I can read their body language. He got on the bus and I said, “What’s going on? How was your night?” Like I usually do. He just broke down and he started crying. He said, “Miss Boyd, my grandmother died. And nobody’s at the house.” So he left the house to come to me because he knew that he didn’t have anybody to help him. He came to me. I ended up calling dispatch and telling them to go to the house. Just to make sure his grandmother was OK. She was dead. So when they come [to school with problems from home], I am the parent. Have you talked to any students about the strike? I’ve talked to parents. They said, “Miss Boyd, is it true that you guys are going on strike?” I told them that yes, it was true. They said, “Why?” I said, “Honestly, if we can’t take care of our families, how can we come and take care of your family?” They understood, and they stood with us. COLLECTIVE BARGAININGSCHOOLSUTLALABOR UNIONSEIU 99LAUSD BY JACK ROSS ... Jack Ross is a writer based in Los Angeles.

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